Hoping to save the University of Florida from a disastrous weekend in Tallahassee, FL, No. 14/16 Florida Gators basketball (5-1) survived a late run to take down the Florida State Seminoles (5-1) 55-51 at the Donald L. Tucker Center on Sunday.
Up a game-high 13 points with 14:30 remaining in the second half, Florida allowed Florida State to rattle off a 15-3 run to narrow their lead to a single point. From there the game went back-and-forth until sophomore forward Erik Murphy put in a layup off an airballed three from sophomore guard Kenny Boynton to ice the contest for the Gators.
The Seminoles began the game with a quick 5-0 run including an opening three-pointer and fastbreak dunk. Minutes later, Gators freshman F Casey Prather hit a trey to give his team their first lead of the game; it would never be relinquished after that point.
A 12-2 run helped Florida extend their lead to 17-11, and a subsequent 9-2 run to end the half allowed the Gators to walk into the locker room up 30-21.
Florida started the second half strong with a 6-0 run including a three from junior point guard Erving Walker, free throw from freshman F Will Yeguete and jumper from Boynton that put them up a game-high 13 points.
Florida State went on their 15-3 run at that point, leaving UF scrambling to keep its 44-43 lead over FSU. After plenty of back-and-forth, Seminoles G Michael Snaer nailed a trey off a loose ball to cut the Gators’ lead to 53-51 with 51.4 seconds left.
Murphy’s layup made it a two-shot game, and Florida State conceded the contest after a turnover with only three seconds remaining.
Boynton led the way for the Gators with a team-high 14 points on 4-of-11 shooting (2-of-5 from downtown) with a game-high three steals and five rebounds. Murphy made his presence felt off the bench playing major minutes in place of senior F Alex Tyus. He finished with 10 points on 3-of-3 shooting (1-of-1 from three) with a team-high six rebounds (three offensive).
With Tyus and redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin only seeing 14 and 13 minutes on the court, respectively, Florida’s freshmen frontcourt players stepped up. Center Patric Young played 25 minutes grabbing five rebounds and Yeguete notched 22 minutes with five boards of his own.
The Gators were effective in somewhat shutting down Seminoles star F Chris Singleton, who was held to eight points on 2-of-12 shooting while only grabbing five rebounds. Snaer led Florida State with 15 points (5-of-6 from three), and G Derwin Kitchen contributed eight rebounds and four assists.
UF shot better from the field (38.1-33.3%) and the line (68-54.5%) than FSU but not downtown (37.5-41.2%). They grabbed six more rebounds, notched one more block and committed six fewer fouls but turned the ball over three more times (17-14).
Winning their first road game of the season and coming out victorious in Tallahassee for the first time since 2002, Florida will remain on the road for their following two contests – a neutral site contest against Central Florida in Orlando, FL on Dec. 1 and a true road game in Washington, D.C. against American on Dec. 5.
POST-GAME NOTES & QUOTES (After the break…)
Donovan on struggles in the second half: “It was not a real good second half for either team offensively. Because we had so many young guys on the floor, at times that group of guys can struggle to score and it probably put too much pressure on Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton. […] In the first half, when we had pretty good player movement, ball movement, some real good things happened for us offensively and we shot 47-48 percent. The second half was a combination of some poor shot selection by us and some really good defense by them.”
Donovan on Murphy stepping up: “I’m really proud of him. It took a while for him to even get into the game. He knocked down a three right before the half there that was a big three to give us a nine-point lead. When he was in there, he was playing well. Kept putting them back in there. The zone [defense] helped him; it allowed him to rebound the ball and play an area and not have to play Singleton man-to-man.”
Donovan on out-rebounding without the height advantage: “In the backcourt they’re probably bigger, but I thought that Florida State last year was much, much bigger than they are now. We’ve got some pretty good length across our frontline.”
Donovan on Tyus (and Macklin) playing less than 15 minutes each: “In the second half we didn’t get off to a very good start. We gave up five points right away [and] they cut the lead from nine to five. We subbed. Really it was the young guys that got a lead for us – we went up by 13 points. Certainly those guys weren’t going to be able to play the whole half. We came back with Alex and Vernon in the second half and the lead went right back down to about five or six or whatever it was, [so] we came right back in with the young guys. […] We were struggling to score regardless, and I decided to go with maybe our better defensive team. Will Yeguete and Patric and even when < strong>Casey strong> [Prather] was out there gave us a little bit better defenders, rebounders and better at loose balls and those kind of things.”